What Getting Fired Taught Me About Choosing the Right Candidate

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May 29, 2015

I hate to admit it, but I was fired from my first two jobs out of college.

I felt like a failure and was dejected, not knowing why I could not succeed despite really trying.

I was an accountant then and earned a CPA certification. I had good grades from a very good school and understood accounting theory at an advanced level. In addition, I was a good interviewer and was able to convince people that I was the person they wanted to hire.

Trouble is, I really wasn’t a fit for a career in accounting. I had the mistaken but common belief that with effort and commitment, I could become anything that I wanted to be.

Understanding our innate characteristics

Boy, was I was wrong.

How many hires do companies make of people who have the right experience, but not the ability to do the job? It happens more than you think.

My situation occurred decades ago when I did not understand innate characteristics (sometimes called abilities or aptitudes). These characteristics describe what we CAN and CANNOT effectively do and what environments we CAN and CANNOT effectively work in.

I now know that my failure in accounting was due to being low in detail and rules (following other people’s ways of doing things). Fortunately, once I was clear that accounting was not the right career for me, I began thinking about what would be aligned with my characteristics.

What I did know is that I liked interacting with people, helping people take action (e.g., selling), leading, managing and creative problem-solving. I was fortunate enough to land in the recruiting industry where my innate characteristics turned out to be assets rather than liabilities (pardon the accounting terms).

Many of the specific qualities that caused me to fail in accounting led to success in recruiting, and that is the point — the things that are weaknesses in one situation are strengths in another.

3 employer takeaways

Here are three (3) takeaways that apply to companies and employees:

  1. Education, credentials and work experience are not necessarily indicative of ability to succeed in a specific job and company.
  2. Everyone is wired to do well in some things and not in others. A person who is poorly wired for a specific job or environment will likely fail. This is regardless of effort on everyone’s part to succeed!
  3. Our conditioned beliefs often get in the way of finding the right fit. We tend to believe what we want to believe and fall prey to conditioned cultural adages like “attitude is everything” and “where there is a will there is a way.”

There is a great deal of potential benefit to employees and employers in going beyond the traditional qualifications-oriented approach in hiring and instead using natural ability as part of the equation for success.

For employees, why waste your time trying to shoehorn yourself into a job that’s not right for you.

For employers, choosing candidates with the right abilities can lead to job satisfaction, employee retention and productivity.

That’s a win-win for all. 

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